By GREG MENGELT
JEFFERSONVILLE — After losing its top three players from last year’s sectional championship squad, Jeffersonville’s girls’ tennis team has met a rough stretch early in the 2014 season.
After 5-0 losses to No. 17 Columbus North and Castle in their first two matches of the Jeffersonville Dual, the Red Devils recovered to beat New Albany 4-1 in Saturday’s final match to improve to 3-4.
“I know we have four losses, but we’re not in dire straights yet,” Jeffersonville coach Mark Reilly said. “We’re still feeling good about where we are. I’m not panicking. The main thing is to keep everyone positive.”
The Red Devils still sound positive.
“I think [the season has] gone pretty good,” sophomore Haley Asplund said. “Everybody has played well, but we’ve started out against some pretty good teams.”
“We’re coming along,” said Jeff No. 2 singles player Larissa Neville. “I think we’re still trying to figure out who’s going to play [which position]. We have a lot of potential.”
Reilly thought his entire team played well in the win over the Bulldogs. He heaped praise on the No. 2 doubles team of Katie Bowen and Asplund, who have just recently begun playing together. The duo beat New Albany’s Raquel Rachel Johnson and Haley Young for their first win together.
“Last night and this morning, it was pretty hard for us,” Asplund said of her new partnership with Bowen, “because we haven’t played doubles and we never played together. After we got used to each other, then we started playing better together.”
“I really like our [No.] 2 doubles play today with Katie Bowen and Haley Asplund, as far as competing,” Reilly said.
Jeffersonville’s No. 1 doubles team of Libby West and Rachel Williams, which Reilly said is likely continue as the Red Devils’ top doubles team for the remainder of the season, dispatched Raquel Burch and Ashley Fullmer 7-5, 6-0 for their first victory of the weekend.
“I feel like our No. 1 doubles team competed very well this weekend, even though they lost against Columbus North and Castle,” Reilly said. “Libby and Rachel are starting to come together as a team.”
The day’s longest match was between the Devils’ Emily Lewis and the Bulldogs’ Anne Mattox at No. 1 singles. Mattox won the first set 6-4, but Lewis came back to take the final two sets 6-4 and 6-2.
“I like how she fought today,” Reilly said of Lewis. “This was her third match in less than 24 hours and she hung in there and fought after losing the first set. It’s hard to teach competitiveness, but she was very competitive today and I like that.”
The Devils’ first point came at No. 3 singles where Kaitlin Wunsch earned a surprisingly easy 6-0, 6-1 victory over Megha Dhanapal.
“We’ve changed her game some,” Reilly said of Wunsch. “How she’s playing now is where we want her. It’s a matter of getting better at it. We thought [her match against Dhanapal] was going to be a tight match, but she quit making mistakes and missing [shots].”
New Albany’s lone victory was at No. 2 singles where senior Lauren Hoffer defeated Larissa Neville 6-1, 7-5. Hoffer spent the last three seasons playing doubles with her sister Emily before moving to singles for her final season.
“I think she’s made an excellent transition from doubles,” New Albany coach Bob Dusch said of Hoffer. “I think that once she starts going to the net a little more, her volleying skills will pick up.”
“I think I’ve made a good transition,” Hoffer said. “I’m still having a little bit of trouble, but I’m figuring it out. It helps at the net because that’s all I did for the last three years.”
Neville said her match against Hoffer was her best outing of the season.
“I’ve improved since last year, but I have not been playing as well as I could have been,” Neville said of her first five matches. “[On Saturday], I think I played really well.”
“She’s seen some good competition,” Reilly said of Neville. “The second set, I think she figured out here game. Even though she lost that, this was a great experience for her.”
Despite the rough weekend, 16-time defending sectional champion New Albany is far from throwing in the towel on the season.
“I think we’re working toward a strong finish,” Hoffer said. “Right now we’re building on each match we play.”
“We still got a long way to go,” Dusch said. “I felt like this weekend we showed some real promise. It’s a situation where I feel like, as a coach, sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back.”
COLUMBUS NORTH 5, JEFFERSONVILLE 0
Singles — Aubrey Smith d. Emily Lewis 6-1, 6-0; Paige Littrell d. Larissa Neville 6-1, 6-1; Rosemary Yonushaonis d. Kaitlin Wunsch 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles — Sarah Vanderkoltz-Sydney Anderson d. Rachel Williams-Libby West 7-6, 7-5; Alex Friend-Brooke Richardson d. Katie Owen-Haley Asplund 6-1, 6-1.
CASTLE 5, NEW ALBANY 0
Singles — Bailey Devillez d. Anne Mattox 7-6, 6-3; Elizabeth Boik d. Lauren Hoffer 6-2, 6-2; Corie Odam d. Megha Dhanapal 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles — Allison Mann-Ruple Jairath d. Ashley Fullmer-Raquel Burch 5-7, 6-3, 6-2; Katie Brookman-Julia Dayton d. Haley Young-Rachel Johnson 6-0, 6-2.
CASTLE 5, JEFFERSONVILLE 0
Singles — Devillez d. Lewis 6-3, 6-0; Boik d. Neville 6-0, 6-1; Odam d. Wunsch 6-0, 6-0.
Doubles — Mann-Jairath d. Williams-West 2-6, 6-3, 6-3; Brookman-Dayton d. Bowen-Asplund 6-2, 6-1.
COLUMBUS NORTH 5, NEW ALBANY 0
Singles — Smith d. Mattox 6-1, 6-1; Littrell d. Hoffer 6-1, 6-1; Richardson d. Dhanapal 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles — Vanderkolk-Anderson d. Fullmer-Burch 7-6 (9-7), 6-3; Friend-Meaghan Olibo d. Young-Johnson 6-2, 6-3.
JEFFERSONVILLE 4, NEW ALBANY 1
Singles — Lewis (J) d. Mattox 4-6, 6-4, 6-2; Hoffer (N) d. Neville 6-1, 7-5; Wunsch (J) d. Gabby Getty 6-0, 6-1.
Doubles — West-Williams (J) d. Burch-Fullmer 7-5, 6-0; Bowen-Asplund (J) d. Johnson-Young 6-2, 6-2.
JV: Jeffersonville 3-2; Jeff winners — McKenna Woodard, Shelby Darr, Katy Gernand.